A teachers union has this week announced that there are as many as several thousand unqualified teachers currently acting as educators in the UK. The teachers union are warning that if this practice is allowed to continue it could seriously damage the education of young children and other students across the country.

These figures come from a National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers survey and suggested that numbers of unqualified teachers was on the rise. That particular survey stated that more than 60% of the 4,600 members of the union questioned said they were working alongside staff who had not completed their teacher training.

The survey also suggested that there was a tangible reason for the rising amount of unqualified teachers who ended up in these positons. Schools were either unwilling or unable to pay higher salaries for qualified staff.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, when asked about the results of the survey said, “Parents no longer have the certainty, when they send their child to school, that they will be taught by qualified teachers. These figures show that the scale of the problem is now widespread. This is jeopardising the educational progress of children.” Keates also did not pull her punches when referring to those unqualified teachers in these positions as well as schools, saying, “It is abuse of unqualified staff who are being exploited by schools and it is denying teachers jobs.”

Keates had some left over vitriol for the coalition government as well. She stated that the coalition was “robbing children of a fundamental entitlement”, this statement comes after a coalition policy which abolished the requirement for academies and free schools to hire qualified teachers. The policy was introduced after a vicious fight by Labour and some more liberal ministers against the deregulation, although in the end the coalition was able to push through the policy.

The argument presented by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was that with the deregulation in place academies and schools in the UK would be able to follow top independent schools, and would be able to hire subject experts with world experience. Ms Keates, predictably, disagreed. The head of the NASUWT called the move a “crude cost-cutting measure” that had “nothing to do with enhancing teaching and learning”.

More than 90% of teachers said unqualified staff “regularly taught lessons”, 84% of respondents said that the unqualified were left to plan and prepare lessons and 75% said they were charged with assessing children’s overall progress in class. The idea that unqualified teachers are being allowed to assess children is not an overly worrying one but the idea on any level that students could be getting a sub-standard education due to the teachers not being qualified enough, is.

The NASUWT have introduced these figure in an attempt to change the law back. They hope that proving that students are now being educated by teachers who are of lesser education, if not lesser quality than prior to the law change, they will be able to turn the tide against this law and reinstate the regulation.

The law as it stands states that in independent schools, free schools and academies there is no regulation that requires staff to have qualified teacher status or to be working towards it. That however is not true in local authority-maintained schools, anyone classed as “unqualified” must be a trainee working towards their teaching certificate, someone trained overseas or an instructor “with a particular” skill employed but only as long as a qualified teacher is not available.

The statistics also bare out the increase in unqualified teachers. The most recent Department for Education statistics, from 2013, showed that 17,100 unqualified teachers were working in publicly funded schools. The figure was an increase from 14,800 in 2012 but short of the number in 2010, the year of deregulation, where the number hit 17,800. The problem appears more pronounced in academies where the number of unqualified teachers has risen dramatically each year since 2010, from 2,200 to 7,900 in 2013.

The Liberal Democrats are attempting to distance themselves from the policies they employed during the coalition with a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats saying they would “change the law to guarantee a qualified teacher in every classroom” in all types of school. This, the spokesperson claimed, was to be in line with Nick Clegg’s previous opposition to the Conservative-led changes.

Clegg himself stated, “There is no reason why a child attending an academy or free school should not enjoy the same basic right to be taught by a qualified teacher or to follow a core curriculum as any other child,”

The Labour Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, has also made a similar claim stating that Labour wants to maintain standards and prevent the “watering down” of those standards by employing potentially inferior teachers.